Righty: The glorification of African culture is just a transparent attempt by disaffected black intellectuals to further discredit our European heritage and weave a web of self-aggrandizing myths and lies around their primitive culture. Let’s get real: how can you compare tribal masks to the Sistine Chapel ceiling? Afrocentrists even have the audacity to claim the ancient Egyptians as ancestors of today’s African Americans, when everyone knows the Egyptians weren’t black. Afrocentrists are clearly desperate to find some evidence of distinction in their past, but their efforts are either self-deluding or plainly dishonest. To make matters worse, they’re actually teaching this drivel in schools today. What about teaching black kids how to read and write so they don’t end up as angry, drug-dealing street thugs or unwed teenage mothers?
Lefty: Africa was the birthplace of humankind and home to the most ancient civilization on the planet. Africans built the pyramids and the Sphinx; they created brilliant works of art while Europeans huddled over peat fires to warm their sorry backsides. Systematically excluded from our racist school curricula until now, Africa has re-emerged as the cultural focal point in restoring pride and dignity to millions of African-American students — the descendants of enslaved Africans who had been blatantly deprived of their cultural birthright for centuries.
The New Moderate:
African history and culture are worth studying, but so is everyone’s heritage. All world history courses (and world history must become a requirement in all public schools) should include a segment on Africa — as well as on Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Latin America (you get the picture).
The Afrocentrists’ emphasis on the glories of their African heritage might boost the self-esteem of underachieving black kids, and that’s a worthy goal. But at what price? Dismissal of (and hostility toward) European history as little more than a chronicle of systematic imperialist exploitation? Further self-ghettoization of the already ghettoized African American community? The creation of a narcissistic cultural identity that clouds reality with wishful half-truths? (Yes, the ancient Egyptians were African; no, they weren’t black.)
The cultivation of a mythic Afrocentric world-view, like the invented holiday Kwanzaa, springs from noble intentions but will only dig a deeper gulf between the black community and the rest of American society. Include African history and folk traditions in every social studies curriculum, definitely — but teach it accurately, and don’t make it the focal point of a black child’s education. With slavery and Jim Crow dead and buried, black separatism should join them in the cultural graveyard.
Should American blacks take pride in their African heritage? Absolutely. With a passion. Do they need to connect with Africa in order to feel good about themselves and their achievements? Absolutely not. What a sad idea. African Americans need no validation from another continent. A four-century history of suffering and redemption on these shores is validation enough. African Americans are, above all else, quintessentially American, and they have an abundance of American heroes to admire. In a New Moderate’s utopia, some of those heroes might even be white.
Summary: Afrocentrism is a well-intentioned but divisive influence. Include African history in social studies courses, but keep it free of dogma and don’t make it the core of a black child’s education.